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[LUSAKA] Zambia's president Levy Mwanawasa has replaced the country's science and technology minister for the second time in two and half months.

Mwanawasa appointed Kabinga Pande, previously head of public relations at Zambia's central bank, on 24 March.

Pande replaces Bates Namuyamba, who was installed as science minister in January following claims that his predecessor was neglecting his duties (see Zambia sacks 'underperforming' science minister).

Mwanawasa has not disclosed why he removed Namuyamba so quickly. Speaking at a press briefing on the day of the switch, the president said only that he expected the new minister to perform well.

According to Valentine Kayope, another former science and technology minister, Pande's appointment was "the worst mistake Mwanawasa has ever made".

"How do you appoint a person who has a public relations background to be the minister of science and technology?" said Kayope in an interview with SciDev.Net.

"What is he going to do there? The Ministry of Science and Technology is one of the most difficulty ministries in Zambia and it needs a person who understands what science and technology is, not public relations."

Opposition member of parliament Edith Nawakwi told SciDev.Net that Pande's appointment shows that Mwanawasa does not value science.

"Science is at the centre of development of any country but in Zambia science is not valued, so how do you expect the country to develop scientifically?"

Pande has yet to make a public statement since his appointment as minister of science and technology.

The minister became a member of parliament on 4 March, having resigned his position at the Bank of Zambia so he could stand in the by-election for Kasempa constituency's parliamentary seat.

The seat was formerly occupied by minister of labour and social security Patrick Kafumukache, who died in December 2004.

In the cabinet reshuffle, Bates Namuyamba was appointed minister for labour and social security.